Nov 3, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer (left) and president of baseball operations Theo Epstein (right) help manager Joe Maddon (center) with his jersey as he is introduced during a press conference at the Cubby Bear Lounge near Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports
With Christmas season upon us, what better way to take a look at the Major League Baseball landscape than to do it with a MLB-themed Christmas Wish List? Time will tell if Santa brings each wish to fruition but as he climbs down chimneys around the world each Major League Baseball club has a wish for a gift they hope to see under the tree on Christmas morning.
Arizona Diamondbacks: A breakout season from Allen Webster. Webster, 24, was acquired in as part of a package from Boston that came to the desert in exchange for southpaw hurler Wade Miley. Webster was once touted as a can’t miss prospect and the marquee piece heading to Boston in the mega deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2012 but has yet to put it together at the big league level, going 6-5 with an alarming 6.25 ERA.
Atlanta Braves: A healthy Nick Markakis. The Brave’s big signing this offseason was OF Nick Markakis, formerly of the Baltimore Orioles, to a 4-year, $44 million deal. The lefty has some pop, eclipsing the 10 home run mark in each of his eight major league seasons. He is also an on-base machine, with a career .358 mark. Although he has played 145+ games in all but one of his big league campaigns, he underwent a neck procedure this offseason, so his health may be a question mark leading up to Opening Day.
Baltimore Orioles: The arrival of Dylan Bundy. The fourth overall pick in the 2011 draft, hard throwing righty Dylan Bundy returned from Tommy John Surgery in 2014 pitching in the low levels of minor league baseball. He is not expected to crack the rotation out of Spring Training, but a strong spring combined with a hot start in the minors may allow the 22-year old to make an impact in the majors during the dog days of summer. With the loss of Nick Markakis and Nelson Cruz, Dylan Bundy may be looked at as a draw to the ballpark when he arrives full-time at the major league level, hopefully sometime in 2015.
Boston Red Sox: An All Star year for Xander Bogaerts. Like his team, Xander Bogaerts struggled mightily in 2014, hitting a disappointing .240 clip with an OBP of .297. The 22-year old was not overly impressive at shortstop, forcing the team to bring in Stephen Drew midseason temporarily moving the young infielder to third base. Drew was dealt as the Red Sox fell out of contention and Bogaerts looked better at short, but overall did not live up to expectations in 2014. He is still young, and regarded as one of the game’s top prospects and an all-star year from the Aruban infielder.
Chicago White Sox: An improved pitching staff. The White Sox offense ranked in the middle of the pack in 2014 in most statistical categories, but their pitching staff struggled to a 4.29 team ERA. General Manager Rick Hahn has worked to fix the staff for 2015, acquiring starter Jeff Samardzija and closer David Robertson. Both men will be looked at to post solid seasons, aiding a staff that ranked 25th in saves and gave up the 4th most earned runs.
Chicago Cubs: Instant team chemistry. There will be lots of new faces on the North side of Chicago starting with manager Joe Maddon who comes over from Tampa Bay and big name free agent signing Jon Lester. Catcher Miguel Montero was acquired via trade and Lester’s “personal catcher” from Boston David Ross was signed to a two year deal. A key to success will lie in how quickly this new core gels and how effectively the pitching staff works with two brand new backstops.
Next: Cincy, Cleveland, Colorado, Detroit, Miami, and Houston